History of Brandaris

Brandaris Maritime is best known for our flagship Brandaris, a 63’ historic Dutch sailing vessel that shares her name with the northern most lighthouse in Holland. Both the lighthouse, which has operated since 1594, and the Dutch yacht are named for a Dutch sea god. The yacht Brandaris was built in Amsterdam, at the Amsterdam Shipyard, one of the finest shipyards in Holland. She was launched in 1938 as the private yacht of shipyard owner and famous Dutch designer William De Vries Lentsch, Jr.  

Upon her launching, and in anticipation of the invasion of Holland by the Germany as W.W. II exploded across Europe, Brandaris was hidden in a small canal in Holland and covered over with trees and bushes to hide her from the invaders. When the coast was clear, Brandaris made a colorful escape from the German occupation carrying with her the precious cargo of refugee children escaping the Nazi imprisonment. This trip brought her and her cargo to safe keeping in England. Later in 1940, Brandaris was called on, along with many small boats of all kinds, to participate in the famous Evacuation of Dunkirk. She is credited with having saved 330 British troops.  

After the war Brandaris was purchased by an American Colonel from the Harkness family of Philadelphia. She arrived in the United States by way of an ambitious Atlantic crossing on her own bottom shortly after the war. Subsequent owners in the United States celebrated her unique pedigree as she sailed up and down the east coast from the British West Indies to the Canadian Maritimes.  

With her purchase in 1985 by the Somers family, Brandaris found a welcome and comfortable berth in the historic village of Wickford, in North Kingstown, RI. The family made their home aboard her. The Somers family, working with the extremely talented craftsman at Wickford Shipyard and the surrounding area, undertook a five-year refit of Brandaris. This renewed and restored the beauty and pedigree of this historically significant vessel.  

After Brandaris’ return to her original splendor, the Somers family desired to share her with the public through charter activities. The pursuit of documentation and certification for passenger vessel operations in New England was complicated by the Jones Act, a federal law that places certain restrictions on the use of foreign built vessels in U.S. coastal waters. Authorities required the vessel’s owners to appeal to the Congress of the United States for a waiver of the Jones Act. This process required lengthy correspondences through congressional channels.

On June 14th (Flag Day) in 1993, U.S. Congressman Ronald Machtley, of Rhode Island, introduced a bill, HR. 2409, to grant Brandaris a waiver of the Jones Act. Based on her historic significance and the persistent efforts of her owners to offer her for public access, Brandaris was granted a release from the restrictions of the Jones Act. 

Having successfully overcome this hurdle to receive documentation with endorsement for coastwise trade, the next obstacle the vessel had to surmount was passing stringent Coast Guard inspections. This process resulted in her final certification as subchapter T Coast Guard inspected passenger vessel. Operating out of Wickford, R.I., Capt. Somers family offered a full range of charter operations for over 15 years. These included family charters, corporate outings, weddings, birthdays and even funerals.  

The vessel hosted a wide range of educational programs including a Classroom Afloat program offering experiential learning programs and numerous sailing adventures in events as an American Sail Training Association (ASTA) Tall Ship.  

Currently, Brandaris is undergoing another major retrofit. She still provides a wonderful educational opportunity for those who wish to learn about this historic vessel.
Doug Somers has owned and operated The Dutch Yacht Brandaris for over 25 years.  

It was Doug's exposure to boatyards and boat builders from Mamaroneck, N.Y. to the Canadian Maritimes that allowed him to find and purchase Brandaris, a rare example of traditional Dutch Yacht design.  

At first, she was home for Doug's family in ports throughout New England. With her extremely comfortable accommodations, including a fireplace in the main saloon, central heat throughout and plenty of room, Brandaris made the perfect live-aboard home. 

The details of this family adventure is part of the story that unfolds to all who sail aboard her now, and reflects the love and charm between this family and their boat, for which they are so proud.  

When the time and place seemed right, the Somers family set aside their wanderings and found a welcome and comfortable berth in the historic village of Wickford, RI, a charming seaside community. At Wickford Shipyard they began what turned out to be a major 5 year refit of the vessel they called their home. The extremely talented craftsmen of Wickford Shipyard and the surrounding area worked along-side the Somers family to help renew and restore the beauty and pedigree of this historically significant vessel. The result of these efforts is a tribute to the quality of her original construction and is evidence of a passionate commitment to a life-long dream.

Next came the idea of sharing her charms with the public by preparing Brandaris for the charter trade. A long process followed, not the least of which required Brandaris to comply with the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, a body of federal law called the Jones Act. This series of Maritime laws restricts the use of foreign-built vessels from use in coastwise trade in US waters. Details of this excursion through the myriad politics of this procedure is part of the charm and history of the vessel and her owners, and is told when sailing aboard her.

The outcome of these efforts was an acknowledgment of this vessel's historic significance by the issuance of a Congressional waiver of the Jones Act. To obtain this waiver, U.S. Congressman Ron Machtley, of R.I., introduced a bill that was passed by the 103rd Congress of the United States. This coastwise trade endorsement left only the stringent US Coast Guard inspection and captain and crew licensing required for passenger vessel operation. Testimonial to the quality of her overhaul, she passed these inspections with but limited alteration.

The Dutch Yacht Brandaris, her captain Doug Somers and a friendly and talented crew have sailed safely and with great pride from their home in Wickford, RI for the past 20 years. Son Brandon , wo was raised aboard Brandaris, has now received his masters license and still sails from time to time with the family, while pursuing his own career.
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